>Berkeley organization teaches members how to demonstrate effectively
>Updated 12:00 PM ET July 14, 2000
>By Sasha Talcott
>(U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. -- Berkeley resident Sarah Seeds
>has been arrested more times than she can count and once was
>shot at while trying to prevent loggers from clear-cutting
>an old growth forest.
>In an effort to stop a fishing boat from going out to sea,
>28-year-old Katy Flynn-Jambeck and six other demonstrators
>linked arms and spent two days hanging from the side of a
>Dan Rudie, another activist, hung himself five years ago
>from the sign of a San Francisco Shell station to highlight
>the plight of a Nigerian dissident.
>These protesters and other members of the Berkeley-based
>Ruckus Society kicked off their fourth annual Democracy
>Action Camp Thursday, training more than 150 participants
>to repel off buildings, climb a 60-foot tower and stage a
>sit-in in a tree.
>Participants hope to use their newly acquired "direct action"
>skills to protest at the Democratic National Convention,
>which will be held Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles.
>Activists say members of different left-wing movements can
>use the camp and the upcoming convention to unite and,
>hopefully, prevent the "hostile corporate takeover of
>Ruckus program director Han Shan accuses both the Democrats
>and Republicans of subverting their ideals to the allure of
>soft money and corporate greed.
>"These aren't conventions -- they're coronations," he says.
>"It's already known that Bush will be elected for the
>Republicans and Gore for the Democrats. It's a tiny group of
>rich elites in business who are deciding how things are run."
>In the hills above Los Angeles, the camp participants will
>spend the next week honing their skills for the upcoming
>convention protests, when hundreds of thousands of progressive
>protesters are expected to flood the city.
>Shan says liberal activists have become increasingly
>disenchanted with the Democratic Party's wholesale embrace
>of typical Republican issues, including free trade and the
>At the November meeting of the World Trade Organization in
>Seattle, this disaffection exploded into conflict, as
>thousands of protesters took to the streets to rail against
>the international governing body.
>"The grandest tactic we used in Seattle was numbers," Shan
>says. "(The World Trade Organization) doesn't represent 99
>percent of the human population and 100 percent of the Earth."
>Ruckus members, who heavily participated in the Seattle
>protests, say they hope to shine the spotlight not on the
>Democratic convention, but the drama in the street outside.
>Rudie says his decision to hang from a gas station sign
>created a strong visual image and focused attention on Shell
>Oil's actions overseas.
>"In a case like this, the most important thing was to get
>people to see what was about to happen," he says. "We drew a
>line in the sand and said, 'Enough is enough.' We can't take
>any more. We're making a stand."
>Flynn-Jambeck, who teaches camp participants how to climb
>scaffolding, says the group's direct action tactics are
>designed precisely to attract media coverage. She says
>activists know they can only temporarily put a halt to events
>but their dramatic stunts often thrust the problem into the
>"You only stop something for a little while, but it makes
>people bear witness to what's going on," she says. "When you
>put your body on the line, people start paying attention."
>Flynn-Jambeck says she chose to suspend herself from a bridge
>in 1997 to stop fishermen from "strip mining the ocean" and
>to push for less destructive fishing methods.
>Although she was arrested in the action, Flynn-Jambeck was
>acquitted after an eight-day trial. Berkeley activists formed
>the Ruckus Society in 1995, after federal legislation
>increased the number of circumstances under which timber
>companies can log on public lands.
>"Suddenly, we saw the need for a lot more activists on a lot
>more fronts to prevent the wholesale destruction of our forest,"
>Shan says. "We needed to give someone the tools to create a
>ruckus. We have to enlist a whole generation of young people
>if we're going to win this battle."
>Although the Ruckus Society started as an environmental group,
>it soon blossomed into an umbrella organization for left-wing
>Seeds says her own long history of protest demonstrates that
>nonviolent tactics can cause genuine change. A Ruckus
>volunteer trainer, Seeds spends her summers in the Idaho
>forests blockading half-finished roads.
>In one memorable instance, she and other protesters barricaded
>a road by using "lock boxes" to fasten their arms and legs
>together. Environmentalists had already sued to prevent
>construction, Seeds says, but the legal challenge had dragged
>out unresolved for years.
>While preventing construction, the activists also set up a
>table with coffee and doughnuts to serve to workers who were
>blocked from building the road. During that protest, a local
>man shot at the demonstrators, but the bullet whizzed by
>harmlessly over their heads.
>Seeds says the event was memorable not for the gunshot but
>because the protesters followed their training and remained
>calm under fire.
>"All the things we were trained to do -- all the things we
>believed we could do -- worked," she says. "We saw ourselves
>put to the test and we passed that test. We knew what to do
>and it went well."
>In Los Angeles, Seeds says she will serve as a liaison between
>demonstrators and law enforcement.
>"If it makes sense to risk (arrest), you risk," she says. "Use
>all the tools in the toolbox, but use the ones that will get us
>closer to the revolutions we want."
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